Characterization of inappetent sheep in a feedlot using radio-tracking technology
journal contributionposted on 2021-08-10, 00:54 authored by AL Barnes, SL Wickham, Ryan AdmiraalRyan Admiraal, DW Miller, T Collins, C Stockman, PA Fleming
The feeding and drinking behaviours of sheep were monitored using RFID technology at a commercial pre-embarkation feedlot in Western Australia with the aim of characterizing feeding and drinking patterns of inappetent sheep that might allow them to be treated. Feeding and drinking behaviours of sheep were compared with their survival and change in body condition. Patterns of number of visits and the time spent at feed and water troughs were analyzed for a total of 8,206 sheep, representing four consignments that were monitored for a range of 6–31 d. Data for feeding and drinking behaviours were compared for the first 6 d. For animals that were alive at exit, 18.9% of sheep attended the feed trough for less than 0.25 h d−1 (15 min per day) on day 1; this decreased to only 2.4% of sheep by day 6. Of the sheep monitored, 0.93% died (n = 76); Salmonella spp. infection was the leading cause of death (n = 40; 52.6% of all deaths) across all months and was accompanied with inanition. There was marked variability in the average time spent at the feed trough for sheep that died eventually from salmonella/inanition (contrib-uting to the lack of statistical difference in time spent at feed trough between sheep dying from different causes; P = 0.056). Over half (55%) of the animals diagnosed with salmonella/inanition spent an average of less than 0.50 h d−1 (30 min per day) and 45% less than 0.25 h d−1 at the feed trough. There was a negative correlation (r) in time spent at the feed trough overtime for individual sheep that died from salmonella/inanition, indicating that these individuals went off their feed. This pattern was not evident for animals that died from other causes (significant difference in r values between five categories of cause of death; P = 0.040). Characterization of feeding behaviour of sheep that died from salmonella/inanition therefore appears to require more than simply monitoring daily intake. There was no difference in time spent at water troughs between sheep that died or were alive at exit (average 0.30 ± 0.23 h d−1). This study reveals that the patterns of feeding and drinking behaviours during pre-embarkation feedlotting do not readily allow identification of animals that warrant singling out for veterinary care or alternative feed arrangements. This result highlights the need for experienced stockmanship in handling these animals.